TX: Watkins urges race, justice discussion as trio is ...
Fri Apr 6, 2012 17:17
Watkins urges race, justice discussion as trio is exonerated for robbery ByJennifer Emily/Reporter firstname.lastname@example.org | Bio 10:38 AM on Fri., Apr. 6, 2012
State District Judge Lena Levario this morning exonerated three men wrongly prosecuted for the purse snatching turned aggravated robbery of an elderly woman nearly two decades ago.
Levario declared Darryl Washington, Marcus Smith and Shakara Robertson innocent of the crime.
This brings Dallas County's total exonerations to 30 since 2001.
"I've got butterflies in my stomach. I'm trying to keep everything together," Washington said, smiling after the hearing. "It's been a long time. Justice is finally served."
Robertson was a man of few words, simply saying "I'm thankful" and said he was grateful to his attorneys and prosecutors who worked to clear their names.
Washington and Robertson were not released because they are serving sentences for other crimes. But the judge allowed them to don suits for the occasion instead of appearing in striped jail uniforms.
Smith has been free for years but said he, his wife and children have carried the "stain" of this case for years.
"It's rough for me to provide for them," he said. "It's looked on as shameful, and it should be for anybody who did it.
"I had lost hope."
Smith said that now, he hopes to remove "the stain of shame, condemnation and guilt" from his family.
District Attorney Craig Watkins used the opportunity of the exonerations to talk about the need for a discussion about race and justice in this country. Too many exonerees, he said, look like him. Watkins is the first black man elected DA in Texas.
Dallas County is in a great position to start that talk, he said.
"We have our finger on the pulse of bring justice to this country," he said.
Levario told Watkins from the bench that she agreed.
"The time for subtlety has come and gone," she said.
Levario said that without Watkins as DA and the current judges who have defense backgrounds, many of the county's exonerations -- including today's -- would not have happened.
Three of the men who really committed the crime will not be prosecuted because the statute of limitations has run out. A fourth was shot dead years ago in what has been described by police as a justifiable homicide.